Changes to succession to Makea Nui tribal title?
Is the long wait for the proclamation of the legal successor to the tribal title of Makea Nui Ariki of Te-Au-o-Tonga about to end?
The latest move to settle the succession is a radical proposal for a ‘rotation’ of the title between the clans in an effort to find a solution to the long running saga. Speculation is growing as to the outcome of the proposal made to members of the four lines of the Kopu Ariki of Makea Nui: Rangi Makea, Sadaraka, Upokotokoa and Mere at a recent meeting.
The proposal is contrary to the long established protocol whereby the Makea Nui is chosen from Rangi Makea who are the senior line. The title as we know it emerged from the time of Makea Tepatuakino, some 200 years ago, when he famously divided the Makea title into Makea Nui, Makea Kariki or Makea Vakatini so that his eldest son from each of his three wives could be a King.
For instance, the late Makea Nui Teremoana Ariki is from Rangi Makea line, who took on the mantle of older sister, Makea Nui Takau II who died just a few short years after having the tribal title bestowed upon her. Teremoana took over from her younger sister and held the title for around 50 years before passing away in the mid 1990s.
Their father was Makea Nui Tinirau II Ariki whose imposing physique and striking patrician features dominated many of the photographs taken in the grounds in front of Para-o-Tane palace during the late 1800s and early 1900s of the colonial administration in the Cook Islands
After the passing of Makea in the mid 1990s, at least four contenders claimed the title including: Inanui Love-Nia (granddaughter to Tinirau II), Mere Macquarie (daughter of Teremoana) and Matua Sadaraka from the Sadaraka line. All three had their respective supporters and all three underwent traditional investiture ceremonies.
However, the High Court refused to recognize any of them under various legal fictions: Inanui had supposedly not consulted with Potikitaua (the speaker for Makea Nui) ignoring that the then Potikitaua had designs on the title himself. Mere was held to have offered an inducement of land, while Matua Sadaraka was ruled not eligible because his family line has never held the title; and Paula Lineen, elder sister to Mere Macquarie. Since then, two contenders, Inanui Love-Nia and Matua Sadaraka, have passed away.
At the advent of the Gospel by the London Missionary Society, the title of Makea Nui became recognized by the colonial powers as the premier title on Rarotonga and by extension to the whole of the Cook Islands.
The tribal title was held by Makea Nui Tinirau I who died in 1826 as attested to on a monument located at the entrance to the Avarua CICC church.
As time passed, the various successors remained in very high regard by the colonial powers who even referred to the Makea Nui married to Ngamaru Ariki of Atiu as the Queen of Rarotonga and accorded her all due respect and courtesy.
Now fast forward to the present day. The tribal title has suffered a reversal of fortune with the Kopu Ariki in disarray because they cannot agree on who should hold the tribal title.
There are still many traditionalists who want to adhere to custom but just as many who want their chance to become King or Queen. However, as many unsuccessful candidates of the past have found, the courts will insist on established protocols of primogeniture, suitability and whether your line has ever held the title and so on.
There is no fairy tale ending in sight as yet for a suitable King or Queen to claim the right to live in Para-o-Tane palace as Makea Nui Ariki.
Herald Issue 455 15 April
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